Tommy Boy DJ Tour @ Scratch : London King’s Cross Scala

Afrika Bambaataa, Dan The Automator and De La Soul's Maseo celebrate 20 years of Tommy Boy...

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tom Silverman’s Tommy Boy Records, the label has, amongst other things, organised a DJ tour to loudly boast about its impact on hiphop. And leaving aside the usual quibbles about record company exploitation, it is of some interest that two sometimes neglected aspects of the artform are on show tonight – the art of turntable mangling, and the show-and-pose complexity of breakdancing.

Arthur Baker is of course a famous producer now, but this largely stems from his recordings – with partner John Robie – in the ’80s, that include the ground-breaking ‘Planet Rock’ by Afrika Bambaata And The Soul Sonic Force. Tonight he spins monstrous overhauls of a track by Redman, large helpings of electro, and cuts back and forth to Missy Elliott‘s ‘Get Ur Freak On’. And the intent is to make the audience dance, who duly oblige.

Although better known for his work with the sometimes ludicrous Gorillaz than for Handsome Boy Modelling School or more personal projects, Dan The Automator nonetheless shows a fine understanding of hiphop tactics, even if he does blow his own trumpet a bit by dropping a track by that cartoon group into an otherwise eclectic set. It’s certainly bracing to be exposed to Del Tha Funkee Homosapien’s smart satire of corporate man, ‘Mister Dobalina’, after all these years, and House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ still has the same effect on a crowd it always has.

The Master Of Ceremonies for the night, as opposed to MC, is of De La Soul‘s Maseo, who does the introductions and even indulges in a DJ set of his own later on. And there is visible awe when Afrika Bambaata takes the stage and mans the decks while members of the Zulu Nation show off heavy B-boy breakdance moves. Thankfully, his selections live up to the legend, with old-school flavours, obscurities and a musical trajectory that goes from James Brown through Sugarhill Records and The Jacksons to Rob Base And E-Z Dee, taking in Washington Go-Go and New York electro along the way. Phew.

Dele Fadele